The Lutheran Church has the practice of setting aside days to honor and remember notable Christians throughout history. Looking at our list of these past two weeks I see St. Barnabas (an apostle who traveled with St. Paul), Justin Martyr (a second century defender of the Christian faith), and Boniface of Mainz (a missionary to the Germans in 700 A.D.). All important men in their own right.
Which got me thinking about how many faithful Christians have filled the world throughout history, and fill our churches today, who I know nothing about. If you’re particularly exceptional at the right time in church history, you might make it onto a list of the saints. If you happen to be a famous preacher today, people might know your name. If you’re a pastor in town, you may be lucky enough to write articles (that might even get read!) for the local paper.
But for the most part Christians attend church, have faith in Christ, confess their sins, quietly serve their neighbors, teach their children the faith, honor their parents, and die with little fanfare. I can name a few important Christians throughout Church history off the top of my head, but do not know the names of millions of others. Christians just as faithful, if not more so, than the ones we remember. Those who sought no glory for themselves, those who were martyred for the faith, those who just quietly lived as Christians.
So it’s helpful to remember that while we may forget (or never know in the first place), God never does. He knows all His sheep. He calls them by name. He never forgets them. And He never abandons, neglects, or forgets you either. That is a true joy of Christianity. No matter what praise and rewards (or lack thereof) you receive in this life, none of it matters compared to the words God speaks, and gifts He gives, to you. Words that declare you His child. Gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation. You who have been baptized and believe will be saved and are in Christ. Never deserted and always loved by him.
Eastern Orthodox Christians have a beautiful little prayer that I’ve always liked. When Christians have died, they pray “Memory Eternal.” A prayer which offers the departed up to God that they may be remembered by Him eternally. For God to remember a person is for that person to be present with Him, so it’s a prayer for eternal life and rest in Christ. It’s also a great reminder that God never forgets you. He always remembers and cares for you. From the moment of your birth, through your life, to your death, and into the eternal age to come.
All of us will eventually be forgotten. Time moves on. We may know and remember our grandparents, but probably not our great-great-grandparents. You may recall the pastor your church had before your current one, but probably not the one who founded your church. You might be able to tell me some stuff about St. Paul, but how much do you know about St. Barnabas? But what we know or do not know doesn’t really matter in the long run. Because in Christ, we are never forgotten. All of our prayers are heard by Him, our faith is upheld by Him, and He has shed His blood for us. “But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. (Isaiah 43:1)”
Jeffrey Dock, Trinity and Good Shepherd Lutheran